Thursday, 13 March 2008

A week in the life …

I don’t usually blog about work. Not because of any sort of professional discretion but because this blog is meant to be an antidote to work.

But three things this week illustrate what I end up stressing over most of my waking hours. These may or not be typical of people running small/medium sized business (I think SME is the jargon). Actually, they’re probably typical only of Trotskyists who find themselves as company directors, with an under-used education, in a former craft industry that has been decimated by technology, and now continually reinvents itself.

(As background the industry of graphic arts/ pre-press is an odd little world – a mixture of creativity and manufacturing - and because of the type of businesses we sell our services to, we rub alongside the bollock-speak arena of corporate marketing).

But anyway here’s the three things that have dominated my week:

• I had to sack an incompetent member of staff; a horrible process that I have been through (very rarely) before. It was done (I think) fairly and legally but it's still not what I ever imagined myself doing. It’s a difficult process – as it should be - and because I’m something of a reluctant boss it was made more difficult because I let the situation fester longer than I should. In fact until the individual’s colleagues were clamouring for me to take action. But enough already - I’m not going to come out with any ‘this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you’ bullshit. It obviously didn’t, and I’m still here, but only a complete wanker would be unaffected.

• Two of our trainees finished their apprenticeships. In the not so old-days they would have gone through a rite-of-passage ceremony of being ‘banged out’. This involved getting covered in ink and flour and all sorts of other horrible shit and dragged through the streets. Nowadays they just get an NVQ certificate. For about a decade we had no apprentice scheme at all – the result of new technology and union-busting. But I took the decision to introduce the NVQs and bring back an updated version of the old system. It’s one of the few things I can actually take some pride in.

• The rest of the time has been devoted to pulling together a pitch for our most important client who are re-tendering the services we have supplied to them for the past 12 years. There’s a new regime there who are excited about the idea of ‘global sourcing’. In reality it’s got fuck all to do with our services but I have to defend the fact that we don’t off-shore our work and we’re not part of some multinational group with offices in every sweat-shop zone in the world. Oh yes - and also still demonstrate how we can reduce our prices and be more productive. Needless to say, if I can’t convince them, the future doesn’t look too bright …

That’s it – the bad, the good and the increasingly ugly - welcome to my world. I won’t be talking about it again soon.

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